Dark Angels Note 89

Dearest Friends,


Happy to report we successfully wrestled the brilliant Andy Milligan into this week’s hot seat. Andy is a Dark Angels partner and co-founder of  business growth consultancy, Caffeine.


1. Tell us about something you’re working on right now. 

When I first read this question my mind went totally blank. I could not think of anything I was working on. Well nothing that would interest anyone but myself. I’ve been clearing out my loft and as a consequence I’ve been spending a lot of time cataloguing old newspapers and football and theatre programmes that I have hoarded over the years. I’ve also been re-reading the correspondence of my teenage and university years. Ah, the lost art of letter writing. They say the past is a different country but reading those newspapers and letters it seems very little different to now. News headlines about war, chaos, elections, celebrities. A new Australian soap opera on BBC had become a lunchtime phenomenon. And Neighbours is back in the news. In the letters the same obsessions, hopes, failings, jokes as now and the tone of voice of my friends is unchanged. I never kept a diary. I never had the discipline. But I kept all those letters as well as other random jottings. Perhaps I hoped that in these letters there would be the seeds of a great ‘coming of age’ novel or glorious memoir. There aren’t.


2. Can you recommend something for us to read?

I’m going to be especially selfish and recommend a book by one of my closest friends. Widows of the Ice by Anne Fletcher. It’s about the widows of the doomed expedition by Scott to the Antarctic. Scott’s death and the Titanic happened within a few weeks of each other. They were both sensational headline news that gripped the nation. Anne’s book focuses on how the widows were treated by the media, by society, what was expected of them and what happened next to them. Not the story of famous women but of forgotten wives. It’s fascinating and their experiences are remarkably relevant to today.


3. What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever read or received?  

Nothing beats Hemingway’s famous observation that “the first draft of everything is s**t”. I still find that comforting and an encouragement to write. And someone once told me that “the way to beat the challenge of the empty page is to write on it”.


4. Share one thing you do when you get stuck.

Distract myself. Go for a walk or some other exercise. Do a crossword or some puzzle. Or just give up on it for the day and go to sleep. When you stop forcing your brain to wrestle with a problem it has an uncanny knack of quietly finding the solution. That’s why ‘sleeping on it’ is very good practical advice.


5. What’s your desert island book and why? 

I bet everyone has the same reaction to this question: ‘what, just one?’. In the end I will plump for Ulysses because you can have so much fun with it. You can read it in different accents. You can read each chapters in an entirely different voice. You can sing and chant some of it. You can even read chapters out of order. Its language is full of life and all life is in the book. It would keep me occupied. And because I would be all alone I wouldn’t have to pretend to anyone that I understood every page of it. But I would need a luxury too, which would be enough Guinness to last me until I am rescued. Then I can also play the Ulysses drinking game.


Thank you, Andy. Reckon yourself and Mike Gogan could put the hours in rightly on that desert island.



Telling Stories – A One Day Workshop
Join Neil Baker and John Simmons to explore new ways of using storytelling techniques in your business and personal writing. We’ll be working with a series of creative and playful exercises to help you make, shape and remake powerful stories. If you’re new to Dark Angels, the day will be a perfect introduction to our approach to business writing and creativity. And if you’ve worked with us before, it’s a chance to try new exercises and recharge your creative batteries.

Date: 27th April 10:30 – 16:30
Venue: October Gallery, Central London
Fee: £275
Reserve your place here.


Weekly Tuesday Gatherings
This is a lovely hour of reading, writing and communing. Everyone is welcome; in fact invite a friend along. We meet at 7pm UK time. To join us, click here on the night. There’s no need to register in advance and we’ll be using the same link every week from now on. 


Be well, keep reading, keep writing and know that we’re always here.. 

From everyone at Dark Angels

Also published on Medium.